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Foundations, Talent, Elite and Mastery

We all participate in sport for many different reasons. Some are interested in maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle, others love the thrill of competing with their friends and a rare few set their sights on winning medals for their country. Whatever the motivation, we mostly choose our own pathways, although sometimes the pathway chooses us.

The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) has developed a new framework to capture these different pathways and address the current shortfalls in applied research and practice specific to athlete development. It is called FTEM.

We all participate in sport, but for many
different reasons. Participation in sport

can lead to three key outcomes.

Whatever the motivation, the Australian Institute
of Sport wanted to show how these three different

pathways work together. After all, having
an active, healthy lifestyle or playing sport

for sport’s sake is just as important as
becoming a high performance sportsperson.

Using insights from the last 30 years, the
AIS came up with a new, inclusive sports framework

called FTEM.

Foundations, Talent, Elite and Mastery.

Each describes the major phases of athlete

The FTEM framework will help us ensure that
sportspeople get the right support, at the

right time to get the right outcomes.

The FTEM framework has up to 10 phases – starting
with early movement experiences.

When we are young we learn the basics of movement.

Through more challenging movement environments
and good quality physical education we can

advance our repertoire of movement skills.

Together, these important foundations help
us to pursue and engage in an active lifestyle.

At the third phase, we commit to developing
our sports skills through sports specific

training and competition. This typically occurs
within sporting clubs, and many of us happily

stay within this sports participation pathway.

T1 is the entry point for the high performance
pathway for those promising talents who demonstrate

physical, psychological and movement potential.

At the T2 level, experienced coaches with
a discerning ‘eye’ for talent, further

assess attributes such as ‘coachability’,
determination and positive self-management

to verify future sporting potential.

Athletes at the T3 level are committed to
achieving higher levels of sports performance

through focussed practice and training.

At this stage, holistic athlete support is
critical to reduce dropout and underachievement.

As they move through the pathway to T4, athletes
reach a significant breakthrough performance

and are rewarded for their efforts.

At E1, athletes achieve elite status through
selection and representation at the highest

senior levels of international or professional

At E2, athletes win medals at the biggest
events, or in the case of professional sports,

dominate their sport week in, week out.

A few rare athletes achieve sports Mastery
— the most advanced example of sporting

excellence, characterised by sustained success
over multiple high performance cycles.

Optimising your understanding of athlete pathways
using the FTEM framework, will improve and

enrich your pathway outcomes.

For more information on FTEM, go to our website:

What is FTEM?

FTEM (representing Foundations, Talent, Elite and Mastery) is a user-friendly framework of sporting development that is representative of the ‘whole of sport’ pathway continuum.

It integrates three key outcomes of sport participation: active lifestyle, sport participation and sport excellence. It provides a practical method to assist sporting stakeholders to construct a more functional athlete and sport development system.

How can FTEM be applied?

The FTEM framework can be used as a practical planning and review tool for a broad range of sporting stakeholders including parents, teachers, clubs, coaches, sports science and sports medicine personnel and national and state sporting organisations.

This enhanced understanding of sporting pathways will help us to improve the experiences of more people, at more levels of the pathway, more often.

Key features

  • Developed through action research at the AIS
  • Representative of the ‘3 worlds’: active lifestyle,
    sport participation and sport excellence
  • Holistic and multidisciplinary sports model
  • Fully integrated
  • Semi-linear design permits all possible movement
    variations up, down and across the FTEM framework, thereby recognising that individuals can be simultaneously participating in multiple sports at multiple levels of the pathway
  • Features variable entry and exit points within the developmental pathway
  • Non-prescriptive, allowing broad user flexibility and adaptability
  • Devoid of fixed age boundaries
  • Incorporates those with the potential to be elite, which has previously been identified as an insufficiently considered component of high performance modelling
  • Reinforces the need for the right support at the right time and with the right athletes

Further information

Read Top 10 tips for parents to nurture and support your child’s foundational sporting development.

For more information, head to the FTEM information page located within the Clearinghouse for Sport.

The FTEM Resource Repository (requires registration) includes information and resources specific to each level of the pathway.

To access the FTEM Resource Repository you must become a member of the Clearinghouse for Sport. For more information visit the Clearinghouse membership page.

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